First financial aid is the broad term given to “how you finance college” and it falls into 3 categories Free money, Uncle Sam, and Private money. The goal is to maximize the first two while at the same time doing the most important thing of all… Keep your costs down! There are many practical ways to do this which will make a huge difference in the amount that you pay for your degree!. lets start with, keeping costs down because If you take one thing away from this I want to be this.. The easiest way to reduce the cost of college is to reduce the tuition. How you do this is very simple; get as many credits in ways other than paying tuition at a 4 year university, and there are several ways to do this
Community College- Tuition is a fraction of that of a university and in some states such as California Free and you may be able to live at home. Yes, you sacrifice the freshman experience but you will be happy when you are buying a house years before your friends.
CLEP Classes- This is taking a test that covers the content of a required class and if you pass you get the credits. Most universities have a limit on the number of classes you may CLEP but you should do the maximum. CLEP’ing a class costs around $250, whereas a class at a university easily costs 5 times that.
AP Classes- These are high school classes that prepare you for a test, that if you pass you get college credit for the class.
The next easiest way to save is on books. You should attempt to check out the text book for upcoming classes before the semester starts! If you can not do that you can rent books online from retailers like ecampus.com. If you do buy, buy online and sell back any books you know you wont ever read again, which will be most of them.
OK, so you have reduced the cost and now it is time to look at paying what you have to. The first thing you want to do is file the FAFSA early, as close to Jan 1 as possible. You can estimate your taxes and if they come out substantially different update your FAFSA later, but filing early ensures you make yourself eligible for as many grants and scholarships as possible. the next thing you want to do is max out your subsidized Stafford loan. There is 0 interest on this during school. After you have taken the max on Stafford if you still are short. Go to your financial aid office, they may have programs which are only available to students when they max out the Stafford. Finally, if it comes to taking a private loan, take as little as possible and pay it off fast.